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Gunners talisman, Aaron Ramsey says the strength of Arsenal’s Emirates Cup opponents provides them with the ideal preparation for the new season.
The Gunners will face Europa League finalists Benfica on Saturday, before taking on Ligue 1 runners-up Monaco 24 hours later.
Ramsey is anticipating two tough games, and stressed their importance with the 2014/15 campaign now just a matter of weeks away.
“The Emirates Cup always brings good teams who have played at the highest level and this year it’s no different. Both teams have some really good players,” he told Arsenal.com.
“It’s a great test for us before the season starts, even though we’ll still be building up for then. It will be nice to get that competitive football.
“It’s a great tournament. It gets all the fans excited because they know that the season is not too far away. It’s a good couple of days and all of the players are looking forward to coming back and playing at the Emirates again.
“It’s also good for younger players to get opportunities to show what they can do against these teams. It’s nice for the fans to get the chance to see these young players coming through as well.”
Have Your Say: Will Arsenal win the Emirates Cup?
Arsenal host Benfica on Saturday straight after Valencia and Monaco meet in the opening game of the two-day tournament.
The event is now in its seventh year and has gained an exalted reputation around Europe. For Wenger, it is always a crucial guide to the last few weeks of pre-season.
“Yes it’s always a signal that we are in the final stage of our preparation and that the serious things start again,” he said. “It’s always an interesting test for us because for us it’s an indicator of where we are in our preparation. It’s good to come back to competition and it’s good to have two days to see our level. It’s also an opportunity for our fans to see the team and the players who we bought.”
Regarding that, certainly Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy should be on duty and, though just back into serious training, Alexis Sanchez may feature from the bench on one day at least. However keeper David Ospina is out with a thigh injury. Joel Campbell is not a new signing but a vibrant World Cup makes the return of the loanee seem like one.
Saturday’s opponents Benfica won their 33rd Portuguese title last season and were runners-up in the Europa League for the second year in succession.
“That shows consistency,” said Wenger. “They fight every year for the title in Portugal where you have Porto and Sporting Lisbon. You have good opponents who have quality and, technically, they are a very skilful team. They are very well known for their youth team work so you can always discover great players in their team.”
In many ways, discovery has always been at the heart of the Emirates Cup. Young players get a chance while older ones find out their fitness levels as the season approaches. And of course, Wenger can start to understand the overall level of his team.
Then there is the crowd. It is different in composition, predominantly younger, and therefore acts as an important method for new, different fans to discover Arsenal.
“We found out in pre-season that there is the tremendous interest and love in this club from all over the world,” said Wenger. “Of course we know, from things like the parade in Islington, how popular our club is in London – and we are very grateful for that. We have another example on Saturday and Sunday at the Emirates Cup as the games are a sell-out again.
“For me these games are a real test because we are close to the Community Shield and two weeks before the start of the Premier League.
“Just behind that we have a qualifier as well for the Champions League.
“So it’s a measure of fitness, of tactical preparation and just how far we are away.”
Nave Your Say: Can a victory over Benfica be use as a measure of Arsenal readiness for the new season?
The Emirates Cup starts today, with two fixtures that will have the Gunners fans at the edge of their seats. Arsenal will open their 2014 Emirates Cup account with the tie against Benfica later in the day while Valencia will take on AS Monaco in the opening tie.
14:00pm Valencia vs AS Monaco
16:20pm Arsenal FC vs Benfica
Have Your Say: Do you see Arsenal beating Benfica today at the Emirates?
Have Your Say: Do you see Ospina really displacing Wojciech Szczesny as Arsenal first choice stopper?
AC Milan, arsenal, Arsenal manager, Arsenal’s returnee forward, Arsene Wenger, Aston Villa, Benfica, Costa Rica, Costal Rican forward, Emirates Cup, Galatasaray, Joel Campbell, Lorient, Newcastle United, Olympiakos, Real Betis, Sunderland, West Ham United
Arsenal will be hosting the seventh Emirates Cup this weekend with Benfica, AS Monaco and Valencia joining the Gunners in the pre-season competition.
And here is how the teams will be getting the points that will help them to lift the pre-season tournament’
The following points system shall apply for the tournament:
3 points for a win
1 point for a draw
1 point for each goal
0 points for a defeat
If two or more teams finish equal on points, the following criteria shall apply:
a) better goal difference
b) if still level – greater number of goals scored
c) if still level – greater number of shots on target (as determined by the Emirates Cup Tournament Committee)
Match Schedule Fixtures:
Saturday 2nd August
14:00 Valencia vs AS Monaco
16:20 Arsenal FC vs Benfica
Sunday 3rd August
14:00 Benfica vs Valencia
16:20 Arsenal FC vs AS Monaco
All times are UK local times.
Have Your Say: Will Arsenal be able to win the Emirates Cup this time around?
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The Gunners start the month with the two Emirates Cup game to the followed by the English football season opener, the FA Community Shield against Barxlay Premier League champions, Manchester City at the Wembley.
The two legged UEFA Champions League play off matches will sandwiched in between the three Premier League matches for the month.
Saturday, 2nd Aug., 2014 16.20pm Benfica (H) Emirates Cup
Sunday, 3rd Aug., 2014 16.20pm AS Monaco (H) Emirates Cup
Sunday, 10th Aug., 2015 15.00pm Manchester City (N) Community Shield
Saturday, 16th Aug., 2014 17:30pm Crystal Palace (H) Premier League
19/20 Aug 2014 Play Off (1st leg) Champions League
Saturday 23Aug 2014 17:30pm Everton (A) Premier League
26/27 Aug 2914 Play Off (2nd leg) Champions League
Sunday, 31st Aug., 2014 3pm Leicester City (A) Premier League